Shop talk: the art of creating epics… or mine anyways.

If you have not notice, I am not a one-strip gag writer. That is for far more talented individuals. I think big, epic like and so as I put “Bean” together, I find myself doing a few things that go against the grain a little of traditional one-a-day webcomics. I’m not knocking them at all, it is a skill and art in itself with it’s own trials and hardships.

What I want to chat about today is more about how I go about constructing my epic and why I make some of the layout choices that you see.

To put things into perspective, I am build my story with the mindset that it is also being printed. Issue 6 is all but done. I realize that waiting for updates can be a frustrating thing, especially when the update is a transition page, we’ll talk more about that in a minute. Yet if you read the entire comic from the beginning you will see why I use transition pages. Also the comic looks so much better in print. Trust me:)  it just does.

So let’s talk about how I approach this.

Endings: The main thing is an ending. I have talked about this before, but the ending is the most important thing for me. It is my anchor, it gives me something to work towards. I know how the Bean ends, the fun part, which evolves all the time is just getting there. Sorry no spoilers here though.

Transitions and Environments: When I started creating my tale I realized that I was building a world that people were unfamiliar with. There was flora, animals, and it is very big. I needed a way, as someone put it to me, to give my world a voice. So I did. Transitions are scene changes. The epic I created is a visual movie in my head and so when I change scenes I usually change locations and that is a fantastic opportunity to show the world and give it’s voice. Some of my favorite pieces are transition pages. Plus Environments make the world believable. It allows the reader to feel that they are there as well, that they can experience the sights, and if they really use their imagination, sounds and scents. I also make sure my environments are strong when I have to move the story along with text. I want to keep the reader interested without pages & pages of headshots explaining key points. By putting the characters in believable locations with something else to do (hence eating, etc) it allows people to soak up the moment as well.

Details: This could go along with environments, but I think it works better on it’s own. When putting the characters in a location in helps to make the place real. I have not been in a inn or pub, where it was perfectly clean box, all the bottles where the same and everyone looked like everyone else. I try to hide things, like clues, in my pages. In fact I even tell stories to a degree, without making it a part of the tale. They are glimpses, which are very subtle, of other people’s lives. Other details include clothing that talks of people’s occupation, bottles that are unique, and places that feel lived in. Regardless of your style of art, small details can add a whole new level to your work. I even make it a point to add animals to pages. They have nothing to do with the characters of the story, yet isn’t that how life is. Sit in a field or a forest or even your own backyard and just watch and you will realize how alive the world really can be.

Camera Angles and layout: Epics are movies on paper. If your epic is nothing more than headshots or character shots, it can get boring fast. Do not be afraid to move the camera around. You are the director, so direct. Let the camera pan across your world and let your layouts fit your camera angles. I am not saying to go extreme with this. Just remember you can get your point across sometimes better without words on page, if the layout is strong and interesting. Do not underestimate the power creative layouts and camera angles.

The Reserve: Ok this is important, have a reserve built up and ready to go. Life has a way of making things hard, things happen, tragedy’s occur so be prepared. I have prob 12 weeks worth ready to go. It might be a little excessive but it allows breathing room. I also have an automatic update system in place so if I am preoccupied the comic still updates.

Patience and keep pushing forward: Epics take time to tell and you have to be patient. If you are consistent in your storytelling and updates, people will  follow and your story grows. I would suggest finding some nice free tracking software. Just because your comic does not receive comments does not mean people are reading. I know silence can be frustrating, yet if you are patience people will come. Yes it is a little rough at times having to market your work but it does pay off and there are plenty of Free ways to market and promote your stuff. (see for some great tips and advice here) The key is not to give up on your story.

Ok that’s prob enough out of me, but if you have questions on the creation process, the story, or anything else feel free to ask. I will always try to respond and be honest in my answers.

Keep dreaming, keep creating and enjoy the tale



Trav the bean » 6 May 2011 » Reply

you are welcome i have a lot of fun talking about the work i love. Glad I could inspire a little.

Kiarelle » 2 May 2011 » Reply

I really really love your shop talk blog posts Trav, I wish I had read them sooner. So much useful tips and thoughtful ideas put out there. Its really inspiring to read your work, and then to know what you want to give back to the community and encourage others. You are the sort of artist I want to become.

Caanan » 5 Aug 2010 » Reply

I followed a link from Artpatient to this post, but now I'm gonna go start Bean from the beginning, 'cos I agree one hundred percent with your view on background details and world building. I get the feeling I'm going to enjoy it!

    Trav the bean » 29 Nov 2010 » Reply

    Thanks man- sorry to take so long to respond there is a lot going on in my worlds, yet I hope you enjoyed all that you have found:)

Nightlyre » 31 Jul 2010 » Reply

Great post! I hear a lot from gag-a-day writers that longform web comics are not viable, and I'm so glad to see that you are one of the artists proving them wrong. Patience really is the key, and seeing people fall in love with the world, the characters, and the story makes it a thousand times more worthwhile an endeavor than your typical gag-a-day.

Regarding the reserve – I couldn't agree more. There is nothing that makes an audience shrink faster than the dreaded hiatus, especially an unannounced one. I hope you don't mind me adding a piece of advice for people… don't let having a buffer of extra pages lull you into a false sense of security! Buffers can disappear very quickly if not kept filled, so be as dedicated to keeping the reserve full as you would be if you were going to upload the page tomorrow!

    Trav the bean » 2 Aug 2010 » Reply

    long term work- it just has to be done right and there are several artist that are proving them wrong. Yet the only way to make it work is by your own personal commitment.:)

    buffers are key- in fact I need to replenish my own in the next few days.

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